Michigan: Kyle Busch race report

BUSCH SCORES THIRD-PLACE FINISH AT MICHIGAN Z-Line Designs Driver Rallies from Early Handling Issues to Score 15th Top-10 Finish of 2010 Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) overcame early handling...

Z-Line Designs Driver Rallies from Early Handling Issues to Score 15th Top-10 Finish of 2010

Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota team of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) overcame early handling issues to score a solid third-place finish in Saturday's CARFAX 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

It was the second race for the new generation Nationwide Series car, which includes a wider and taller cockpit, a longer wheelbase and a new front section consisting of a splitter, which replaces the traditional valance.

Unfortunately for Busch, the new car was quite a handful as he battled a tight-handling condition throughout much the first 62 laps of the race, which ran caution-free. Despite running in the top-12 during most of that time, when the caution came out on lap 63 for oil on the track, Busch and crew chief Jason Ratcliff decided to make wholesale changes over the course of two pit stops.

On lap 64, Busch came to pit road and the over-the-wall crew changed four tires added fuel before opening the hood of the car to make an adjustment to the front shocks. Once that work was complete, Busch returned the track as to not go a lap down while the pace car toured the field around the 2-mile oval under caution.

Busch then returned to pit road on lap 65 whereupon the crew changed the front splitter of the Z-Line Designs/OfficeMax Toyota, which had been dragging on the asphalt of the racetrack due to the tight handling condition.

The crew performed the complicated duel pit stops flawlessly, returning Busch to the track on the lead lap and in 18th position for the lap-68 restart.

Busch continued to fight the tight condition when the race resumed, but still managed to climb back into the top-10 by lap 72. He pitted under green on lap 103, where Ratcliff made a tire pressure and track bar adjustment in hopes of bringing the Z-Line Designs Camry to life.

Still unable to fully correct the handling of Busch's car, when the second and final caution of the day came out on lap 113, Ratliff ordered the No. 18 Toyota to pit road one final time and changed four tires, added fuel and made another round of tire pressure and track bar adjustments.

After restarting seventh with 10 laps to go, Busch climbed all the way to third and battled with runner-up Carl Edwards right to the finish line, where Edwards claimed second-place by about a foot when the checkered flag dropped.

"It was pretty good there at the end," said Busch, who now has three top-three finishes in four career Nationwide Series starts at Michigan. "I can't thank Jason (Ratcliff) and the guys enough. They did work their butts off all weekend. We missed it pretty bad. We didn't have a third-place car at all. We just fought all day and tried to do the best we could with this Z-Line Designs Camry, and gave it a run for the money there at the end."

Despite not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, Busch remains third in the championship standings, 503 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski. Busch sat out a string of standalone events in June at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., as well as the series' July stop at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, JGR's No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title. It maintained its spot atop the standings, but its advantage was whittled down to just four points over the No. 22 car of Penske Racing. JGR has won the past two Nationwide Series owner's championships.

The No. 22 car was able to cut 30 points off the No. 18 car's lead because it was wheeled by Keselowski, who won the CARFAX 250. It was his 10th career Nationwide Series victory, his fourth of the season and his second at Michigan, which serves as the 26-year-old's home track as he grew up about 90 minutes away in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Edwards finished 3.179 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Busch, Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard rounded-out the top-five. Busch's JGR teammate, Joey Logano, finished sixth, with Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson, Colin Braun and Kevin Harvick comprising the remainder of the top-10.

There were two caution periods for nine laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 125-lap race.

-source: jgr

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Drivers Kevin Harvick , Colin Braun , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Brad Keselowski , Reed Sorenson , Justin Allgaier , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing